I Never Said That!

Marilyn Mackenzie
 


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Recently, another writer was trying to feed my own words back to me. She thought that I had said that everyone was a writer. No, I certainly never said that!

In today's world, everyone writes, but being able to write an email or blog does not make one a writer.

Although there is a language created just for text messaging and chatting, it is one that even old farts can learn. My mother used to use just an “L" rather than “LOL" in her emails. When I asked her about that, she said, “Of course I'm laughing out loud. Have you ever known me to stifle a laugh?" She was right. She also knew that she could get hurt if she actually did ROFL.

On the news a few days ago, they showed a list of words used in text messaging. I was reminded of the first classes I had in speed writing many years ago. In the first lesson, we just eliminated vowels. In the next one we learned a few one-letter codes to use for entire words. Yep, that's what came to mind with the list of code words for text messaging.

Back to the subject. Although more folks are writing messages, that doesn't mean they are writers. But I do believe that many are writers - at heart.

The need to write words on a page or computer screen is something that grows within us until we finally have to succumb. Some begin writing at an early age. Others stave off the desire to write until they have raised children or other tasks that they decided were more important than the aching in their hearts to write.

Often times, people have been discouraged from writing from those who have no creative desires in their own hearts. They don't understand that ache within the person who must create or design.

Eventually, though, every writer begins writing, and once a person has begun committing words to the page, the writer is born. Yes, I believe that folks who write - real writing, not just emails and text messages - are writers. But just as in any field or facet of life or work, there are writers and then there are writers.

In spiritual terms, some folks talk about “baby Christians. " They say that baby Christians are those who have accepted Christ as Lord, but who have not taken steps to develop their relationship with Him. They may pray and read the Bible and go to church. But their prayers are still a laundry list of wants and have-to-haves, just like a child pleading with a parent. The baby Christian has not yet learned to sit and be still and quiet and listen for God to touch his or her soul. He has not yet delved into the Word. She has not sought her true purpose, the one for which she was created. One can be a baby Christian throughout a lifetime, always believing, but never really becoming a true follower of Christ.

And so it is with writers. Having the desire in one's heart and then acting upon that desire and writing makes one a writer. But one can be and stay in the “baby writer" stage throughout a lifetime.

Some graduate to the next stage of writing, learning and honing their craft. They ask for help, seek the advice of others who have reached a higher stage in their writing abilities. They learn when to re-write and edit and when their words are a finished product.

I am reading a book right now called, The Well-Fed Writer - Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less by Peter Bowerman. In his book, Bowerman mentions a distinction that many make in the kinds of writers and authors.

This author speaks of those who “declare themselves merged with the essence of ‘writer-ness’. " He also speaks of those who have become (or are becoming) a “pay-the-bills writer. "

That distinction is one that many - even writers - make. They often believe that only writers who have sold their words or published a book are true writers and everyone else is just dabbling in a hobby.

In the newsroom where I worked, each reporter and editor was in the midst of writing a novel. Even though they all earned a living by writing, they didn't feel totally fulfilled and thought that publishing a book would change that. I always wondered if it would. All of them were good writers. They were paid for their craft. But somewhere, somehow, society, friends and family had convinced them that the only “real" writers published books.

Maybe years ago, having published a book might have been a good barometer of the value of a writer and his or her work. Some publishing company had deemed the work worthy of printing and marketing. If the author could not convince a traditional publisher of the market value of his book, but he did have a truck-load of his own money, the author could have used one of the few self-publishing companies. But he would have already known the value of the work himself. He would have - most likely - used a professional typist to type the manuscript. He would have hired someone to edit the work. (And back then, the self-publishing companies did a bit of the editing themselves too. They might not have been “traditional" publishers, but they did not publish unfinished or unedited works. )

That was then, and this is now. Many, who think that the value of a writer is wholly measured by whether or not he or she has published a book, rush off to do just that. Most of these writers by-pass the traditional publishers entirely, and rush into the arms of the unscrupulous self-publishing companies, ebook publishers and POD (print or publish on demand) publishers that have emerged because they can make a buck at it.

Unfortunately, there are publishing companies whose only goal is to see writers in print, whether the writing is good or bad. They live by feeding on the egos of those writers who must see their names and writing in print. They make money by publishing books, and they often charge the writers horrible amounts to do so. For many of these companies, editing is an additional cost, and one that some writers forego, thinking they have done enough editing themselves. Quite often, they are wrong.

Having a book published used to be a measurement of whether or not a writer was good and his work was marketable. Now, with all the avenues available to persons wanting to be published, that just is not the case.

In the past few years, I have run across quite a few examples of what happens when authors rush to be published.

1) In a library in Michigan, I discovered a bunch of books by one company that bragged about publishing new writers. The books were on the “new arrivals" shelves. I thought it was odd that the library had about fifty of the same book. On closer scrutiny, I discovered that these were fifty different books. The publisher obviously had only one book cover available. On even closer examination, I found that one of the books was published completely upside down. Another was printed backwards. The third one had pages already falling out. I wondered how much each of these authors paid to see their works published so badly. Frankly, I never cared to check any out to see if the writers were good or bad.

2) On another occasion, I was asked by a self-published author to critique her book. She needed a few good reviews to post on her web site and at Amazon.com so that the book would sell. She sent the book to me, and awaited my raving review. Again, I noticed a very poor publishing job. But even worse, I noticed that the woman had not done proper research for her book. The book was supposed to be a guide to what senior citizens might do to earn extra income once they retired. As a baby boomer with senior citizen years looming ahead, I was interested in what she discovered. I was amazed when I found that one of her first entries was about starting a new career. That career was one that my son had considered. He found that because of the physical requirements of the job that most folks would not be able to perform the job past the age of forty. Here was an author suggesting that same career choice for persons over sixty. I believe that a traditional publisher, or even a reputable POD, would have questioned that chapter and some of the others as well. She obviously had not done her homework. She was not a senior citizen herself, nor had she interviewed any seniors before writing her book.

3) Even more recently, I was directed to a web site of a newly published author. I won't go into details about what I discovered. Rest assured, though, that I was not impressed. The writing should have had about three more edits before it was ready for publication. Again, a reputable publisher would have either helped with that or would have directed the author to someone who could have helped.

All of this just proves that today having a book published does not make one an author worthy of acclaim.

Still, I maintain that writing begins in the heart. The heart swells with words that must escape. But the head must take over at some point. The brain must kick in and help with the editing process.

A true writer wants his or her work to be the best it can be before it is presented to the world as a finished product. Perhaps that is why famous authors have admitted to taking years and years to get their books published.

Marilyn Mackenzie has been writing about home, family, faith, business and nature for over 40 years. She is an author on http://www.Writing.Com which is a site for Creative Writers . Her portfolio can be found at http://kenzie.Writing.com

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